February 26th, 2009

Titles Driving You to Abstraction?

Article titles are very tempting things. You run a library search, get this list of titles, and want to immediately click the full text link when you see a title that looks good.

RESIST THAT TEMPTATION!

Article titles may not give you all the information you need to make a decision about an article. With only a small handful of words, a title won’t tell you about the methodology, unique characteristics of the study’s design, or the results of the research.

In fact, a title may not give you any relevant information about the article. Scholars, just like everyone else, like to think they’re clever. And that can result in some humorous, but uninformative, titles. For example:

Clip art of alarmed manSidoli, M. (1996.) Farting as a defence against unspeakable dread. The Journal of Analytical Psychology 41(2), 165-78.

From the title alone, you’d have no idea that this is actually a case study looking at child development and defense mechanisms.

That’s why it’s so important to look at the ABSTRACT of an article. Sure, it’s an extra minute and an extra click to read the abstract before going to the full text, but it’s the most effective way to select appropriate articles for your research.

When you don’t look at the abstract, you’ll find yourself wasting time on articles that aren’t right for your paper, and you’ll completely miss out on important works on your topic.
– Erin

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